This article is the final piece of a six-part series on Next Generation 911.
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six
Prepping for Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) is something many people working in public safety answering points (PSAPs) are doing on some level.
This initiative set forth by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) to replace 9-1-1 emergency services and make it possible for 9-1-1 communication centers to receive modern mixed media messages including texts, videos and live streams.
While those working in emergency services throughout the United States are aware of this initiative, here are some key points to remember.
In 2000, NENA started laying the groundwork for what would become NG 9-1-1. The goal for this initiative was to get public safety answering points (PSAPs) to adhere to guidelines so that they would have the capability of handling modern mixed media messages.
This initiative reflects the way in which communication is carried out now through smartphones and other communication devices. By creating guidelines and standards for PSAPs to follow regarding the acceptance of different types of messages, emergency services will be aligned with the communication technology used in today’s world.
Text-to-911 is the first step along the path to NG 9-1-1. As of October 2016, less than 15% of PSAPs nationwide have the ability to accept text messages; however, this is one part of the NG 9-1-1 standards that PSAPs are able to implement.
Text-to-911 works by connecting a text message through a text control center (TCC) to the appropriate PSAP for the general area in which the text was sent. Emergency call takers at the PSAP receive the message and respond back via text message.
One of the obstacles to overcome with text messages is that they do not provide accurate location information, so emergency text call takers are required to get more details to send help.
Those who send in a text for help will know if their text was received because a message will be sent back almost immediately. Anyone who sends a text message to emergency services who lives in an area where the messages cannot be received will be sent a message saying that their area does not yet handle text messages and to call 9-1-1.
The NG 9-1-1 initiative was developed to help guide PSAPs as they adopt technology necessary to communicate using modern mixed media. It will also help the 36 million people in the United States who are deaf or hearing impaired and using text-telephone (TTY) services now to communicate with 9-1-1.
TTY services are being phased out and as a result, the deaf and hard of hearing will need a way to communicate with emergency services. Text-to-911 will provide these individuals with a way to reach out for help.
As NENA continues to release standards for PSAPs to follow, it is important for these organizations to update technology and determine how they will handle the new forms of communication.
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